The symphony orchestra based in Duluth, Minnesota,has performed the world premiere of a classic Persian tale set to music by an Iranian composer.
The Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra performed “Kalileh,” by composer Hooshyar Khayam, who wrote the work specifically for the orchestra.
It was performed in July with the help of a youth chorus.
Warren Friesen, conductor and artistic director of the orchestra, discovered Khayam last year, when he was searching for six more minutes of music for an upcoming concert.
“I literally went onto YouTube, and I put in ‘piano and strings’ and let’s see what comes up,” he recalled.
Thousands of pieces turned up, and he listened to snippets of dozens of them.
“I came across a piece called ‘Stained Glass’ by a composer I’d never heard of…. At this point, I didn’t even know that Hooshyar was living in Tehran. All I knew was that I liked his music,” Friesen told Minnesota Public Radio News.
Friesen had the orchestra perform that piece last July, and a musical relationship between the orchestra’s leader and the composer was born.
Khayam said, “I was very much moved by the extreme power of the musicians in the American orchestra, who could in fact play the Persian rhythms with that accuracy and that perfection.”
After that performance last year, Khayam agreed to write a piece specifically for the Lake Superior orchestra. The tale he used is the story of a trickster who seeks to gain power by becoming more beautiful.
Khayam came to Duluth to watch the performances, and said he hopes his music will transcend the tense political relationship between the US and Iran.
“I am hopeful and am looking forward, as I have seen the artists here are looking forward, to a complete understanding and appreciation of each other’s arts and culture,” Khayam said.